Understanding Violent Conflict in Indonesia

Understanding Violent Conflict in Indonesia:
A Mixed Methods Approach
June 2009
Patrick Barron
World Bank Office Jakarta
Sana Jaffrey
World Bank Office Jakarta
Blair Palmer
Australian National University/World Bank Office Jakarta
Ashutosh Varshney
Brown University *


Violent conflict in Indonesia is in need of serious theoretical and policy attention. A new belief that
conflict has de-escalated in Indonesia has crept into popular and policy circles. However, it is not clear
whether the movement towards de-escalation is cyclical or permanent. Nor is it clear that newer forms of
conflict will not erupt in Indonesia. Comparative theory and evidence indicate that violence often
reappears in areas that previously had acute conflict. Theory also suggests that unless suitable
institutions or policies are imaginatively devised and put in place, a multiethnic or multireligious society
is vulnerable to the possibility of long-run violent conflict. A careful examination of Indonesia’s recent
history of conflict, and forms and patterns present today, is vital for ascertaining current risks. As the
Indonesian government and society seek to consolidate the democratic gains of the past decade,
understanding violent conflict is of upmost importance.

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